A global geopolitical shift has taken place without the wider audience noticing. Turkey has drifted apart from the US and NATO, it has got much closer to Russia, and the US is desperately seeking to find ways to fill a huge gap in the strategic Black Sea region.
Turkey is still a NATO member. But it has repeatedly said it is committed to buying Russian missile defence system, despite warnings from the United States that the S-400s cannot be integrated into the NATO air defence system.
Missile defence is not a small thing. It’s about the very essence of NATO, the alliance of the Western world. The US State Department said that Washington had told Turkey that if it buys the S-400 systems, the United States will reverse its decision to sell F-35 fighters to Ankara. Turkey plans to buy 120 such jets.
F-35 is no small thing either. It’s a fifth-generation stealth combat aircraft the US doesn’t sell to anyone. But Erdoğan says he has no plans to ditch S-400, and that he may subsequently buy S-500 systems.
The background of US-Turkey relations is quite grim, with Erdoğan accusing Washington of having played a role in the failed 2016 Turkish coup, and of sheltering Fethullah Gülen, the arch-enemy of Erdoğan. In Syria, Trump and Erdoğan have exchanged threats and insults over the Kurdish YPG. On almost every issue, like Venezuela, the West and Turkey are at odds.
Conversely, Turkey and Russia are living a honeymoon and to the despair of the US, bank on big projects such as the Turkish Stream gas pipeline project, aimed at bringing more Russian gas to Europe.
The US administration is trying to control the damage and thinks of ways to replace the key role Turkey has played in the Black Sea region since the 1950s.
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